Iowa City Chef Starts Petition to Change Iowa Bartender Restrictions

Arcane law restricts creativity and needs to change, chef says.

An Iowa City chef has started a petition to update an "arcane" law he said restricts the creativity of bartenders, ahem, mixologists.

Chef Kurt Michael Friese said Iowa's bartenders are currently barred from infusing their own spirits, making bitters or barrel-aged cocktails, and that law - 123.49(2) of the Iowa Code - should be corrected.

"I started it to allow freedom of creativity, to make better cocktails, and elevate them from mere alcohol delivery systems, which the already perfectly legal "shooters" in most sports bars clearly are," said the co-owner of restaurant and advocate for the local food movement.

Friese plans to submit the petition, which currently has 218 signatures, to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the legislature during the legislative session, likely in the spring.

"It's time to liberate Iowa's talented mixologists from restrictive laws that inhibit nothing but their creativity," the petition states. "It is an arcane and intrusive law that restricts the creativity of Iowa's many talented mixologists. ... Iowa's bars, especially those that have restaurants, are perfectly capable of serving these libations safely, "Raising the Bar" for everyone."

Friese said State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, has agreed to write and submit a bill. Bolkcom did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Friese said he became aware of the law after renovating his tapas restaurant to include a liquor bar.

"When I began the bar plans, my intent was to focus on making my own bitters and infusions. It was a distributor who pointed out that it was illegal. So rather than flouting the law, as a lot of places do, I chose to try to change it," he said.

Does this liquor law need to change? Tell us what you think.


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